In the wake of the official Israeli report on al Durah, Ha-artez, whose record in this case, from its reporters to its editorials has been consistently hostile to any Israeli effort to challenge the evidence, continues to beat the drums of cognitive war against Israel. This picks up just where Anat Cygielman left off: IDF keeps shooting itself in the foot. Were I an anti-Zionist, Ha-aretz would have an special place in my playbook. Below, a fisking of their latest, entirely predictable response to the latest Israeli report on the Al Durah Affair.
Yes, it is the infamous picture. And yes, the boy and the father do look terrified. After all someone from “their own side” has been shooting bullets right over their head. Instead, people should be looking at this picture, taken later, and cut by Charles Enderlin in his effort to give the story of a dead child credibility:
“Take 6″: the “dead boy” (according to Enderlin’s voiceover), holding his hand over his eyes, raises his elbow and looks out.
By Barak Ravid | May.19,2013 | 8:40 PM | 24 The report of the committee investigating the “coverage by French TV station France 2 of the Mohammed al-Dura affair, its results and implications”, which was presented Sunday to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is probably one of the least relevant documents written by the Israeli government in recent years.
Is this Ravid’s version of “that’s so fifteen minutes ago?” Or does he not understand the historical meaning of this icon, and the importance in that story of the credibility and power that journalists gave it.
Another take: This is a long overdue response to what may be the longest-standing and most destructive news media hoax in the history of modern journalism.
The fact that 13 years have elapsed since the incidents addressed in the report took place turned the submission of the report into a surreal affair. Netanyahu recited slogans about “a campaign of de-legitimization directed against Israel” and Minister Yuval Steinitz, who had no part in preparing the report, muttered a few words about a ‘blood libel’, and everyone present felt very righteous. The person who advocated for setting up the committee and who chaired it was Yossi Kuperwasser, director general of the Ministry for strategic Affairs. Kuperwasser, who was the Intel Officer at Southern Command and later head of research and analysis for Israel Defense Forces intelligence , has been waging a 13-year long public relations campaign against the Palestinians. For better or worse, his attention to the al-Dura affair became an obsession, leading to a suspicion there might be a conflict of interest.
This is classic. The public relations campaign that matters is Israel’s against the Palestinians, as if they didn’t wage far more vicious PR campaigns against Israel. This is the cognitive war equivalent of “Israel bombed Gaza today, starting a new round of violence.”
The result of the committee’s work was a document for the extremely meticulous. It is doubtful whether even a hundred people in Israel or worldwide are sufficiently familiar with all the intricate details of the incident as to be able to follow the convoluted arguments by the authors of the report.
Furthermore, the document contains no new evidence that might significantly impact the accepted version.
On one level, one needs no “new” evidence. The “old” evidence, which almost no one has bothered to look at, is pretty overwhelming. Everywhere one turns in this affair, the evidence contradicts the narrative that Charles Enderlin, trusting his Pallywood cameraman Talal abu Rahma to the point of inexcusable credulity, laid over footage that contradicts that narrative at every turn.
Even the new interpretation given to some of the old findings seems groundless. For example, Dr. Ricardo Nachman, deputy director of the Israel’s National Forensic Institute, determined, based on viewing poor quality video footage, that Mohammed al-Dura wasn’t shot and killed in that incident. The expert opinion which was attached to the report reads like a report by a movie critic and not by a pathologist. “The final scenes, in which the boy is seen raising his head and arms, bringing his hand to his face and looking into the distance, are not compatible with death throes but seem like voluntary movements”, wrote Nachman. “One doesn’t need to be an expert to see that”.
Indeed, one doesn’t. Look yourself:
The impression is that the report was written for use within Israel. The evidence and arguments that were presented might convince the already convinced, but no more than that.
When I first started working on this case in 2003, I had a chance meeting with three prominent Israeli journalists. When I asked them about al Durah, the response of one, with nodding approval from the others, was “100% the Israelis killed him.” There’s an amazing eagerness of Israeli journalists to believe the worst about themselves. In fact, after Nazir Fares, the Druse commander of the unit, after spending a week inside that vulnerable outpost without any relief, finally got out, the Israeli radio journalist who interviewed him, wanted to know who killed Muhammad al Durah. In some bizarre way this may be related to this unspoken belief that the outside world will only believe the worst of Israel. It is this very psychology that may be responsible for the colonization of the Israeli mind by the Palestinian narrative.
The committee could not present any ‘smoking gun’ evidence showing the 25 year old al-Dura sunbathing on a Gaza beach. Not even close. Any thought of getting such a report to change the globally accepted narrative after 13 years is akin to trying to put the toothpaste back into the tube.
I must confess that I don’t see the purpose of this “prediction” which operates as a guide to foes. Does Barak Ravid want the rest of the world not to change their mind? Does he care that this is part of a larger phenomenon of DurahJournalism that poisons the world’s public sphere with lethal narratives that incite hatred and war?
The report was seemingly a campaign of revenge by the State of Israel, directed against a single journalist from the France 2 network, Charles Enderlin, who first reported the Muhammad al-Dura incident. Committee members tried to saddle Enderlin, who is an Israeli Jew who served in the IDF spokesman’s bureau and whose two sons served in the IDF, with all the problems of Israel and the Jewish people.
Wow. Part of the reason that Israelis have good reason to be angry with Charles Enderlin is that it’s precisely because Enderlin served in the IDF, in the Spokesman’s unit, that officials were inclined to believe him when he said that this was real footage. Most people – my guess is this includes Ravid – didn’t (haven’t) even looked at the evidence when it became available. Enderlin was probably the only person who could have made this hoax work, and that’s precisely because of his bona fides.
His sloppy work and his decade-long stonewalling and refusal to correct himself – worse, his aggressive pursuit in court of French people who criticized him – all of which is delineated in the report, should be a source of great indignation on the part of any Israeli as well as any other journalist who cares about the integrity of our information professionals.
Is Ravid, along with Gideon “so-what-if-it-was-staged-we’ve-killed-850-of-their-children” Levy, someone who is so intent on being self-critical, on accepting the Palestinian narrative as honest, that he ends up being someone for whom good news can’t come. People in the grip of such a post-modern masophicsm, like Levy, like his colleague at Haaretz, Amira Hass, have, can end up being “proud to be ashamed to be an Israeli”?
The committee went even further and hinted at Enderlin’s responsibility for the massacre of Jewish schoolchildren in Toulouse. “His report inspired many terrorists and contributed to the demonization of Israel and to the rise of anti-Semitism in Moslem and Western countries”, wrote committee members. “In some cases the implications were deadly”.
It doesn’t hold him responsible. But the fact is that Merah grew up in a culture in which the daily assault on Israel as child killers, fostered both by the Muslim community and by the French media, created his desire to kill Jewish children. People have been warning about the noxious effects of lethal journalism for a long time, and Enderlin’s mea culpa – at any time over the last thirteen years – might have contributed to cleaning up the toxic waste that dumps daily into the information circulation system of the global community. Ravid, apparently, thinks that defending Charles Enderlin is more important than protecting the global community from the malevolence of lethal narratives that Enderlin is a major player in laundering as “news.”
The damage done by this report could be greater than any doubtful utility. Its publication, accompanied by an international public relations campaign only threatens to awake sleeping dogs. If international press picks up on the report, it could lead to a renewed discussion around Palestinian children getting hurt during IDF operations.
And wouldn’t it be interesting if, as a result, the international media started paying attention to how many Palestinian children are killed by their own people, who in their obsessive desire to hit Israeli civilians, not only kill their own children, but then exploit for their lethal narratives. Let’s look at that list of 850 children that B’tselem has compiled, with the skeptical hermeneutic we can learn from the Al Durah case.
Overall, Ravid seems to be saying to the world, “don’t worry! nothing new. no need to look closer.” Why is he so eager to reject the criticism of Enderlin’s work? Is this a kind of pomo honor reflex? I, as an Israeli for whom the respect of my liberal and progressive friends around the world means a great deal, and whose admiration I acquire by being a “self-critical” (i.e., non-”tribal”) Israeli, am embarrassed by this awful attempt to exculpate this heinous deed so long afterwards.
I’d like to suggest something different. It’s never too late to challenge a deliberate and malicious falsehood, which is one of the things that the Al Durah story really teaches us. The exceptional willingness of Jews and Israelis to empathize with the Palestinian “other” – a trait notably weak on the other side – has been systematically exploited to everyone’s detriment. The Israelis may have been the obvious target of the Al Durah hoax, but the collateral damage was enormous, and the greatest victim may well have been Arab and Muslim peoples, drawn by this image into death cults that sacrificed their own children, even as they were inundated by their rulers with dreams of genocidal wars of revenge. In their own way, both Muhammad Merah and the Tsarnaev brothers are the inheritors of this propaganda of hatred.
For Jews and Israelis, the Al Durah affair is the ultimate test of, to paraphrase Hillel, “If I am not for myself, who am I?” If you can’t look at the evidence for this catastrophically destructive lie and say, “this time, my side was right.” … then, who are you?
And in the case of Al Durah, this is not just about “us” – Israelis, Jews – but about confronting the forces churning out hatred and war, tearing at the fabric of free, peaceful culture all over the world.
Owning the Al Durah affair as a dastardly and damage libel against our own people, and calling on others for an accounting of their behavior – thirteen years of refusal to reconsider, thirteen years of hegemonic lethal journalism and NGO reporting about our behavior – seems like a win-win all around, at least for people who care about civil society.
One of Charles Enderlin’s favorite defenses is to accuse his critics of believing in “conspiracy theories.” Here is Larry Derfner, whom Charles cites approvingly in his book on the subject, dismissing Philippe Karsenty and me as “conspiracy nuts”:
No doubt about it – Phillippe Karsenty and his allies have a lot of evidence that the killing of Mohammed al-Dura was a hoax, that it was staged by France 2 TV in cahoots with the Palestinians. In fact, Karsenty, Richard Landes and the rest of the conspiracy theorists have so much evidence that it may even add up to .001% [Enderlin mistranslates as 100% - rl] of the evidence that the Mafia, or Castro, or the Pentagon killed JFK. They may have the merest, slightest fraction of the evidence there is that Shimon Peres masterminded the Rabin assassination, or that the Mossad was behind 9/11.
There is, however, a fundamental difference between a “coup montée” (a planned sting) and a conspiracy.
In the former case, it’s a small group of people who coordinate their activities in order to violate rules without the knowledge of the wider public. In this case, we are dealing with a cognitive or narrative hoax, in which some group of players wants the public to believe even though it didn’t happen. These are common in the history of the modern press, and they play a key role in broader “propaganda” campaigns aimed at swaying public opinion.
The Al Durah coup was pulled off by a core of planners and actors, a larger circle of people who cooperated once the tale had been set in motion, and finally a broader circle of believers who were duped by the coup. In a basic sense, the issue is how many people need to know it’s a fake, and how many are duped? If it takes a really broad group of people who know it’s a fake and play along (including people at high public levels), then we’re dealing with a conspiracy. If it only takes a few who know and many more who are duped, it’s asting.
Here are a survey of the minimum of planners of the hoax to pull this off the Al Durah hoax:
the crew at the site:
certainly: Talal abu Rahmah, the gang around his shouting and yelling “The boy is dead” when he’s still sitting up, the al Durahs, the people charged producing automatic gunfire, the “street” who watched this, as other staged scenes.
possibly: The two other cameramen (AP Reuters) who left when their jobs were done, a Palestinian marksman tasked with firing at the scene, starting with the jeep scene…
at the hospitals (Gazan and Jordanian):
certainly: Gazan doctors willing to identify the body of an older boy with a tattoo as that of Muhammad al Durah and to produce an official report; Jordanian doctors willing to continue the hoax of the father’s “wounds”.
possibly: a wider range of hospital officials and journalists.
at the funeral:
certainly: the people who had already prepared posters of the “dead boy.”
possibly: a larger group of people who knew this was a fake
The key to understanding how this is not a conspiracy theory is to understand that it did not have to be a conspiracy, that on the contrary, a small group of people could work together to launch the hoax and a much larger circle of people, for various reasons well worth considering, eagerly adopted the hoax.
The circle of dupes involves most of the people Enderlin cites when he mocks the notion of a conspiracy:
in the media
a Western chief correspondent willing to edit the material in a way to give it believability and a TV station ready to run with the story. Charles Enderlin may or may not have been part of the planning committee. My guess is, he’s a dupe, at least in part because of his arrogance. When he admitted to me that the Palestinians stage scenes all the time, I asked him if so, why not al Durah? To which he responded, “They’re not good enough to fool me.” Apparently not. As for his superiors in France2 who gave him the green light, they were almost certainly fooled by believing in their correspondent.
a compliant press ready to run with the story once it broke. Among these, most notably, were journalists like Suzanne Goldenberg and Robert Fisk who found proof of abu Rahma’s account at every turn, and fed the flames of a post-moden blood libel.
in the higher echelons of Arab culture
King Hussein of Jordan, who visited Jamal al Durah in the hospital and donated blood almost certainly did not know that he was being duped. He had no reason to question the fact that the bandages and blood on Jamals wounds might not be real.
The difference between a conspiracy theory and a scam/hoax/sting is that in order for a conspiracy to take place on a large scale (e.g., the US government planning the 9-11 attacks, or the Jews planning to take over the world), it would take thousands of people in very high places. In order for a hoax to take place it just takes a lot of dupes. And in the case of Muhammad al Durah, it was a lot of willing, even eager dupes.
When people think that claiming al Durah was staged necessitates a conspiracy, they assume that the mainstream news media could not be fooled across the board by a fake, that if there were serious evidence against the story as the media reported it, then surely investigative journalists would have spoken up.
Alas, no. The current state of the mainstream media, especially where coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict is concerned, is an Augean Stables of encrusted bad habits. As Charles Enderlin said, when confronted with evidence that his cameraman Talal abu Rahma had filmed multiple staged scenes, “Oh yes, they do it all the time.” And the journalists who should have put an end to such behavior, apparently had/have no problem with that.
Recently an Israeli blogger translated a piece by a young Israeli journalist who participated in what was supposed to be a “peace initiative” with Palestinian young adults. She is a classic product of Israeli culture, engaged, open, desirous of peace even if that means painful compromises, Liberal Cognitive Egocentric. This recent encounter with her Palestinian counterparts brought her face-to-face with her LCE.
Her pained realizations reminded me of one of Golda Meir’s many profound reflections on the conflict.
We will only have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us.
There’s a moral chasm here so great that even contemplating it becomes unbearable. So what do outsiders do with this chasm? They invert it.
I participated in the Dialogue for Peace Project for young Israelis and Palestinians who are politically involved in various frameworks. The project’s objective was to identify tomorrow’s leaders and bring them closer today, with the aim of bringing peace at some future time.
The project involved meetings every few weeks and a concluding seminar in Turkey.
On the third day of the seminar after we had become acquainted, had removed barriers, and split helpings of rachat Lukum [a halva-like almond Arab delicacy] as though there was never a partition wall between us, we began to touch upon many subjects which were painful for both sides. The Palestinians spoke of roadblocks and the IDF soldiers in the territories, while the Israeli side spoke of constant fear, murderous terrorist attacks, and rockets from Gaza.
The Israeli side, which included representatives from right and left, tried to understand the Palestinians’ vision of the end of the strife– “Let’s talk business.” The Israelis delved to understand how we can end the age-old, painful conflict. What red lines are they willing to be flexible on? What resolution will satisfy their aspirations? Where do they envision the future borders of the Palestinian State which they so crave?
We were shocked to discover that not a single one of them spoke of a Palestinian State, or to be more precise, of a two-state solution.
They spoke of one state – their state. They spoke of ruling Jaffa, Tel Aviv, Akko, Haifa, and the pain of the Nakba [lit. the tragedy – the establishment of the State of Israel]. There was no future for them. Only the past. “There is no legitimacy for Jews to live next to us” – this was their main message. “First, let them pay for what they perpetrated.”
The comparison that Palestinians like to make between the Shoah (which did not happen) and the Nakbah reminds me of Mel Brooks’ comment as the 2000 year old man: “Tragedy to me is if I cut my finger. I’ll cry a lot, go into Mount Sinai for a day and a half. Comedy is if you fall in an open manhole and die. What do I care.” Only, they care.
I’m not saying that the Nakba was not a tragedy, but in comparison with other tragedies that have befallen the Arabs in this area – “Black September 1970, Hama, 1982, Syria, 2010-13 – what happened in 1948 is not exactly of epic proportions. And, of course, who is responsible for this tragedy?
Empathy for the other is clearly not an element of this culture of blame and revenge. The injury must be paid for, and the injured (the Arabs) restored to their former honor (no autonomous Jews to deal with).
In the course of a dialogue which escalated to shouts, the Palestinians asked us not to refer to suicide bombers as “terrorists” because they don’t consider them so. “So how do you call someone who dons a vest and blows himself up in a Tel Aviv shopping mall with the stated purpose of killing innocent civilians,” I asked one of the participants.
Ah, but you don’t understand, my dear. You and your fellow Israelis – indeed your fellow infidels – are not innocent.
“I have a 4-year-old at home,” answered Samach from Abu Dis (near Jerusalem). “If G-d forbid something should happen to him, I will go and burn an entire Israeli city, if I can.” All the other Palestinian participants nodded their heads in agreement to his harsh words.
The significance here is less the vengeful attitude of the speaker than the assent he produced among his fellow Palestinians. In honor-shame cultures, where vengeance is an honorable deed, the ability of people to dissent from such desires is limited, to say the least.
“Three weeks ago, we gave birth to a son,” answered Amichai, a religious, Jewish student from Jerusalem. “If G-d forbid something should happen to him, I would find no comfort whatsoever in deaths of more people.”
Here’s the progressive, integrity-guilt attitude shared my most Israelis. This is not an isolated case; on the contrary, it’s a national ethos, that not only does not seek vengeance, but, wherever possible, to repair the rent in the body social created by earlier violence. Israel’s hospitals are models of fairness to Jew, Christian, Arab, Muslim. If anything, some might think that treating a terrorist in the same place and with the same care as his or her victims, is going too far.
Take just one example among many. The parents of Malki Roth, founded the Malki Foundation in response her “senseless” slaughter in a Palestinian suicide attack on a pizza parlor chosen specifically to kill as many children as possible. It is dedicated helping special needs children. 30% of the cases it treats are Arab children.
The shocking thing here, is that the “progressives,” in supporting the Palestinian cause, have essentially “gone native,” not so much in their own desire to take vengeance (?), but their radical inability to make even a dent in the tribal attitudes of those whom they support. After 13 years of “solidarity” with the Palestinians, Human Rights NGOs, journalists, UN agencies, have not only failed to communicate even the most elemental principles of a progressive attitude and the peace it can lead to, but have done precisely the opposite: they have infantilized, they have fed the resentments, they have played the picador.
In doing so, they have demonstrated the moral vacuity of a major post-modern meme. If Palestinians want to blow up Israeli civilians because it assuages their pain… “who are we to judge?” And when that kind of insane violence grows with this kind of malignant neglect, even spreads to other societies, then it must be because of something the Israelis did to those poor Palestinians.
Israelis from the full gamut of political parties participated in the seminar: Likud, Labor, Kadima, Meretz, and Hadash (combined Jewish/Arab socialist party). All of them reached the understanding that the beautiful scenarios of Israeli-Palestinian peace that they had formulated for themselves simply don’t correspond with reality. It’s just that most Israelis don’t have the opportunity to sit and really converse with Palestinians, to hear what they really think.
Our feed of information comes from Abu Mazen’s declarations to the international press, which he consistently contradicts when he is interviewed by Al Jazeera, where he paints a completely different picture.
Note that this material has been available to anyone online for decades. MEMRI and PalWatch provide precisely the translations needed. But somehow, people like Lital – i.e., an up and coming major journalist – seems unaware. Has she spent her time reading A.B. Yehoshua and dismissing them as the product of “right-wing” war-mongers?
I arrived at the seminar with high hopes, and I return home with difficult feelings and despair. Something about the narrative of the two sides is different from the core. How can we return to the negotiating table when the Israeli side speaks of two states and the Palestinian side speaks of liberating Palestine from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea? How can peace ever take root in a platform which grants legitimacy to terrorism?
Welcome to reality. There’s good news and there’s bad.
The bad news is that until the Palestinians grow up, there will be no peace, and that, at the moment, land concessions actually make things worse. And they won’t grow up as long as their “honor group” consists of other Arabs who live in fantasy worlds and they get support from “progressives” who think that they’re being brave and honorable by supporting their vengeful mentality.
The first Arab leader to wean his people from their scape-goating anti-Zionism will create the first productive, democratic Arab state. May it happen swiftly, in our days.
The good news is that if the West, and especially progressives in the West, would snap out of this “performance” of moral vanity in which we act as if we have no enemies in order to be “true to our values,” and begin to rebuke the Palestinians – and the Arabs, and the Muslims, for behavior that really is, by modern standards, shameful, we could make a lot of progress.
But alas! Palestinians made a cult of their suicide bombers, sanctifying their violence, commemorating it in every way. They even made a papier-mâché recreation of the Sbarro Pizza bombing at the moment of the bomb’s impact, so people could come and savor the Schadenfreude. That exhibitis father to the son who says, “If G-d forbid something should happen to my child, I will go and burn an entire Israeli city, if I can.” And what if his child were killed by a Palestinian militia, as we can now document happens not infrequently? Will he burn a Palestinian city? This testifies to a complete failure of the international community to hold the Palestinians to even the most limited set of standards. They are not only the queen of welfare nations, they are the king of moral affirmative action.
Westerners need to contemplate the moral chasm that separates Israeli and the Palestinians culture, make up their minds who is on the side of the progressive values that they (say they) cherish, and say to the Palestinians, as it needs to say to Muslims: Where are the voices of moral outrage in your community? Where are the projects and programs you have to respond to such grotesque interpretation of morality? Where is your commitment to humanity and your willingness to outgrow your need for tribal revenge?
I’d like to believe that the vast majority of Muslims are moderate, really moderate. I think that could even happen with a shift in the honor-group. But right now, the world community supports the (near) worst a society can produce, people whose moral discourse we would not accept even in the most permissive community, a community that pressures members to kill their daughters. They embody everything upon whose rejection we have built the world that allows us to dream messianic dreams about a global civil society.
We need to stop feeding these folks with and look for the real moderates, those willing to accept that, in matters of faith there is no coercion, and build a community of tolerant faithful.
And one of the first things to do, is stop adopting a demonizing narrative about Israel that empowers the worst tendencies and actors in Palestinian/Arab/Muslim political culture. That’s actually doable. And it’s definitely in the interest of the West to say to Palestinians and Muslims, “you need to get along with the Israelis, with the Jews.” You can’t be so juvenile as to say, “I refuse to deal with these people.”
So that’s the good news: we Western liberals can start now contributing to peace, and we can actually lead the way. Prizes for the most important and successful delivery of progressive tochacha to Palestinians and Muslims. What a virgin field!
Yesterday was Nakbah Day, and my email box is full of material from various pro-Palestinian groups about the tragedy, literally “the catastrophe,” that befell the Arabs in 1948, which they often like to compare with the Holocaust for gravity. Initially my response to this comparison was to dismiss it as a classic example of the rhetorical excess of the Arab world, compounded by their deep self-absorption: if it happened to them, it’s unimaginably painful; if they could have done it to the Jews it would have been glorious.
Obviously, death of several thousand people, the flight of half a million or so refugees is a tragedy, but compare that to 6 million civilians murdered and millions more driven from their homes? Indeed, this painful story pales even when compared to the kind of damage done in the Arab world of “Hama Rules,” from the 10-20,000 Palestinians killed in Black September 1970, to the more than hundred thousand civilian casualties in the Lebanese civil war (in which the PLO participated actively), to 10-20,000 Syrians obliterated in Hama in 1982, to the million killed by Saddam Hussein in his long career, to the current Syrian civil war in which over 70 thousand have been killed and nearly two million forced to flee their homes.
But rather than minimize the Nakbah, I’d like to take a different approach. I agree that the Nakbah was a unique event in the history of the Arab world, one who scale and whose staggering effect does compare with the Holocaust in terms of its impact on Arab memory and discourse. The catastrophe was not what happened to the refugees, who were a mere pawn and minor spinoff of the true tragedy. The real catastrophe was the humiliation of the Arab nations in the eyes of the entire world.
I challenge anyone to find an historical case that even approaches the magnitude of the calamitous failure of the Arabs in 1948, the greatest collective, global humiliation in World History. Japan and Germany may have been utterly defeated, but before that happened they had the whole world trembling at their military might. The Arab military, for reasons that have much to do with their passion for honor, was, after 1948, the joke of the world.
As anyone who studies honor and shame cultures knows, the “public” that sees the humiliation plays a key role. If a man is humiliated and no one sees it, then it didn’t happen. If the “public” thinks it happened and it didn’t, it happened. Daughters and sisters have been killed precisely because the rumor of their shameful behavior alone renders them guilty no matter what actually happened. So the Arab loss of 1948 was particularly devastating because it took place on a global stage in which virtually everyone who was anyone was watching.
Moreover, the global stage was further summoned to pay close attention by the Arabs themselves, who, fully confident of their coming victory, promised to show the world a historic massacre “like the Mongols or the Crusades.” William Miller makes a distinction between humiliation and shame in that humiliation occurs in response to a pretension. One is humiliated when one pretends to be capable of something one is not, when one tries to claim a status one does not deserve. In that sense, Arab pretensions to wipe out Israel in 1948 intensified the humiliation that ensued.
Finally, what made the humiliation particularly unbearable was the nature of the enemy. In the minds of Arabs, Jews were traditionally the weakest of the dhimmi (“protected”/subjected religious minorities), the most cowardly, the most despised. Their boasts of victory were informed by both their contempt for Jews and their outrage at the thought that this tiny group would have the nerve to defy their will. As the Athenians explained the the Melians:
One is not so much frightened of being conquered by a power which rules over others [i.e. other elites] as Sparta does, as one is frightened of what would happen if a ruling power is attacked and defeated by its own subjects.
To be defeated by Israel in 1948, and again repeatedly in subsequent decades was a catastrophe of literally cosmic proportions. It was not only a humiliation of the great Arab nation, but a blasphemy against Islam, understood as a religion of dominance. So when Arabs refer to the Nakba, take them seriously in terms of the magnitude of the damage done. But realize that it is not damage to the Palestinian refugees whom Arab leaders including “Palestinian” ones have continued to torment for almost two-thirds of a century now, but damage to their psyche, to their self-esteem, to their confidence. As Ahmed Sheikh, editor-in-chief of al Jazeera explained to a German journalist about why democracy has so far failed in the Arab world:
It’s because we always lose to Israel. It gnaws at the people in the Middle East that such a small country as Israel, with only about 7 million inhabitants, can defeat the Arab nation with its 350 million. That hurts our collective ego. The Palestinian problem is in the genes of every Arab. The West’s problem is that it does not understand this.
Now the lesson that Sheikh wants the West to learn from this is:
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the most important reasons why these crises and problems continue to simmer [i.e. failure of democratic reforms]. The day when Israel was founded created the basis for our problems. The West should finally come to understand this. Everything would be much calmer if the Palestinians were given their rights.
I would argue the opposite. Just because the Arabs engage in systematic scapegoating and imagine that if only they could eliminate Israel everything would be fine, is no reason for the West to reinforce their immature fantasies. On the contrary, what the West should learn from this is that the “Arab collective ego” is a force they must reckon with in understanding why a two-state solution is not in the cards from their point of view, and why throwing Israel into this maw of self-indulgent projection and infantile rage is not going to solve anything.
On the contrary, only when the Arabs get over this will anything decent happen to them. The first Arab or Muslim leader to wean his people of their anti-Zionism, to acknowledge the public secret that the Israeli government treats their Arabs better than Arabs political elites do, will create the first political system in that world that will take care of and empower, rather than exploit, its people.
Here’s a fascinating exchange between a Jawwad Muhammad Amawwi, chief legal counsel of the Palestinian Prisoners Affairs Ministry and Ofir Gendelman, spokesman for the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office on Arabic TV. (HT: Hadar Selah)
In particular, watch from 8:30, how the Palestinian spokesman uses Al Durah to accuse Israel for doing what the Palestinians do, namely, targeting children.
There are some papers which, as much by their literary standards, as by their journalistic standards, stand out as the paper favored by the intellectual elite: The Guardian in England, Le Monde in France, The New York Times in the USA, and Ha-aretz in Israel. If only for their cultural material they are much prized. And, perhaps not surprisingly (but, I think, we should be “surprised” by everything these days), they have a “leftist,” progressive slant. Much has been written about the decline of the NYT’s coverage of the Middle East, not to mention its tendency to reject or heavily edit editorials from the “right,” and run without any editing, editorials from the flakey left. The Guardian is so bad, it has a website dedicated exclusively to exposing its delirious tendencies towards anti-Semitism. In 2003, a devastating study came out chronicling the collapse of journalistic ethics (in French déontologie) of Le Monde. And now, a new study, traces the decline of standards and the rise of politicized, radical “left” slant in Israel’s Ha-aretz.
Note that all of the critiques have emerged in the last decade, the period of time in which, we argue at The Al Durah Project, the mainstream news media (MSNM), were taken over, at least in their coverage of the Middle East, by a school of “lethal journalists” who systematically injected Palestinian lethal narratives into the information systems of the West as news. It’s hard to exaggerate the role of Ha-aretz in this process. Foreign correspondents read its English edition religulously as their source of information.
NB: this is not because it’s their only access to an English translation. I once asked a journalist if she had read Khaled abu Toameh.
“He writes for the Jerusalem Post.”
“Oh, I don’t read that right wing rag.”
Instead the international press corps prefer a “left”-wing rag. When I presented the al Durah material to my students, one of them, commenting on Ha-aretz’s relentless denunciation and mockery of any effort to exculpate Israel, asked,
“Isn’t Ha-aretz an Israeli paper?”
“Yes,” I replied, “why do you ask?”
“Because it sounds like a Palestinian one.”
As one critic wrote to Ha-aretz in response to a subscription request, “If I want to read a Palestinian paper, I prefer to read it in Arabic.”
Slashed budgets, plummeting standards, and political radicalization have turned Israel’s most respected newspaper into a case study in the collapse of modern journalism.
In early April of this year, the controversial Haaretz reporter Amira Hass, whose coverage of Palestinian violence over the last decade has often prompted accusations of bias, caused a major stir when she published a column called “The Internal Syntax of the Occupation.” Most provocative was her claim that “throwing stones is the hereditary right and duty of someone under a foreign power”—words that appeared only a few days after Adele Biton, a 3-year old Israeli girl, was critically injured when a Palestinian threw a rock at the car her mother was driving, causing it to slam into a commercial truck.
In a Sunday interview with journalist Kalman Libskind of the radio station Galei Yisrael, Haaretz publisher Amos Schocken set out to defend Hass’s article. Growing flustered, however, Schocken ended up saying that moving to a settlement was a form of deliberately endangering the welfare of one’s children, something that in another context would trigger the intervention of social services. As for Hass’s sympathy for rock-throwers, Schocken refused to distance himself. “Sometimes,” he concluded, “you have to fight violence with violence.”
The method Amos Schocken chose to defend Hass’s article, and his defense of editor-in-chief Aluf Benn’s decision to publish the piece in full, sheds some light on the recent changes at the once-venerable Israeli daily. In a series of interviews conducted with current and former Haaretz employees, some of whom held high-level positions at the paper and most of whom still hold it close to their hearts, a consensus emerged to the effect that the paper is undergoing a process of major change that has led to a dramatic reduction in staff, a precipitous decline in journalistic standards, and a willful radicalization of its politics in pursuit of Internet traffic.
As Israel’s longstanding newspaper of record, these developments have raised important questions about the future of print journalism, especially in a country where a free and dynamic press has always been at the center of Israel’s democratic discourse.
One of the major weaknesses of Westerners in the current cognitive war with Islamic imperialism is a seemingly boundless commitment to being fooled. It’s almost as if, on principle, we need to accept lies from the other side as true, lest we be accused of being racist. There are two aspects to this, one, an honor-shame reflex that worries primarily about what others think of us (i.e., we’re not racist, but we’re worried others will think us so), and another, that spending our time suspecting others of deception strikes many of us (justifiably) as a huge waste of time. First let me go over some key examples here, and then come back to these two points.
Exhibit A: Andrea Koppel and the “Jenin Massacre.” During the period that the Israeli army conducted Operation Defensive Shield, reports came from Palestinian sources, especially from Saeb Erakat, accusing Israel of massacring over 500 innocent civilians in “execution-style” murders and burying them in mass graves. It turns out that, not only were they exaggerated, they were invented out of whole cloth. In fact, Israel sacrificed 21 soldiers in an operation that went from door to door in order to avoid civilian casualties and, in the end, of the 56 Palestinian casualties, the great majority were combatants. In other words, the situation was precisely the opposite of what the Palestinians claimed and the press reported an inversion of reality. In the middle of these events and reports, David Bloomberg reported witnessing the following exchange in Tel Aviv between Andrea Koppel, daughter of Ted, and reporter for CNN, and Adam Ruskin, an American-born Israeli:
While we [Bloomberg and Koppel] were chatting, an American-born Israeli joined us to tell Andrea about his perception of media distortion in that the press that stresses moral equivalence between Israeli civilian deaths caused by Palestinian terror and Palestinian civilian deaths caused by Israeli military actions. He argued that Israel has tried to engage in a peace process since Camp David and has been double-crossed over and over by the Palestinian Authority. Further, he argued the civilian deaths caused by Palestinians are intentional, whereas the deaths caused by Israel are mostly the tragic, unintentional results caused by Israel trying to defend itself.
Andrea replied, “So when Israeli soldiers slaughter civilians in Jenin, that is not equivalent?”
Israeli: “What are your sources? Were you in Jenin? How exactly do you know there was a slaughter?”
Andrea: “I just spoke with my colleagues who were there, and they told me of the slaughter.”
Israeli: “Did they actually see the shooting, the bodies?”
Andrea: “Palestinians told us about the slaughter.”
Israeli: “And you believe them without evidence. Could they possibly be lying and distorting facts.”
Andrea: “Oh, so now they are all just lying??” [sic]
The Israeli became emotional in describing that his children are afraid, his friends have been murdered, and if this goes on, “We could lose our lives or we could lose our country.”
Andrea, “Yes, you will lose your country.”
At this point, I interrupted the two of them and asked Andrea Koppel, “Did I just hear you correctly– that you believe the current crisis will lead to the destruction of the State of Israel?”
Andrea: “Yes, I believe we are now seeing the beginning of the end of Israel.”
Koppel later denied this report, which led to reponses by both Bloomberg and Ruskin. I think the latter two are telling the accurate story for a number of reasons, including the nature of their recollections. I think, however, that it illustrates the huge gap between the kind of DurahJournalism that was already dominant among the media stationed in Israel, and the residual ethical commitments of the mainstream news media to proper journalistic procedure.
In an unguarded moment, Koppel spoke like so many of her colleagues on the scene, not merely adopting Palestinian lethal narratives uncritically, but adopting the Palestinian “moral” narrative aimed at the destruction of the state of Israel. Once reported to her superiors in the USA, not yet overcome by DurahJournalism, she quickly backtracked, trying to deny what she had said, forcing Bloomberg to reveal the name of his other protagonist for corroboration.
What interests me most in this exchange is the remark with which Koppel replied to the possibility Ruskin raised about whether her Palestinian sources might be lying: ”Oh, so now they are all just lying??” This reply exemplifies the politically-correct attitude that rejects accusations that Palestinians lie, with the implied (“they… all”) that somehow it’s prejudiced, even racist to accuse Palestinians of lying.
This is pure liberal cognitive egocentrism, in which we are not allowed to pay attention to cultural differences. There are cultures in which lying (especially to outsiders) is openly embraced as a virtue. Motivations range from the purely self-interested (giving directions when you don’t know just to save face and not admit ignorance), to malice (deliberately misleading an outsider because you don’t like outsiders) to waging war.
Taqiyya goes well beyond Shias protecting themselves from Sunni oppressors, and involves extensive disinformation to infidels, especially in cases of covert Jihad. Those among the shabab who play Pallywood would laugh at some Westerner’s rebuke that it’s “not right” to do such things.
So why do we, as a matter of principle, refuse to consider the possibility (high likelihood) that we’re being lied to by our “Palestinian sources”? Because it makes us feel like good, decent, honorable human beings who believe that everyone is like us? Or, more darkly, because it gives us narratives that make us feel emotions we welcome, moral superiority to and even revulsion at Israeli behavior? After all, the same journalists who are principled dupes to Palestinian lies have no problem accusing the Israelis are lying and propaganda.
Exhibit B: Muhammad al Durah One of the more fascinating aspects of the al Durah Affair concerns the attitude towards Talal’s testimony. It lies at the heart of the matter, since he’s the one to claim a) that the Israelis fired continuously for over 40 minutes, targeting the boy, and b) that the boy died before his camera.
Enderlin based his report on this testimony, and all subsequent accounts follow his narrative, if not in its extreme form – cold blooded murder – at the very minimum, in his claim that the boy died on camera. Indeed, the power of this footage, its riveting quality, and the inability of people to view it as anything but the scene of a boy dying under a hail of bullets, all traces back to Talal’s first claim.
The widespread reluctance of people who have seen the full evidence to go any farther than stating that the Israelis most likely did not kill him, stems from a double resistance to a) seeing Talal (and the Palestinian street) as deliberate liars, and b) seeing Charles Enderlin (and the journalist’s street) as dupes to so obvious a fake. I personally think the “conspiracy theory” is actually (in a addition to being Charles Enderlin’s only effective defense), an unconscious admission on the part of those who accept Enderlin’s version that only some massive conspiracy involving the staffs of both Shifa Hospital in Gaza City and the King Hussein Hospital in Jordan as well as even the king himself (who allegedly – in these matters one never knows – gave blood to Jamal), and all the journalists who stepped in line… ridiculous. Therefore it couldn’t be a fake. QED.
The alternative is to imagine the possibility that a) cooperation with the fake was widely received, even by people who hadn’t been brought in to start (e.g., the Jordanians), and b) the number of willing dupes was numberless, including so many of the journalists who didn’t bother to ask any hard questions.
Exhibit A: Susan Goldenberg, writing for the Guardian, comes to the site, observes a dozen bullet holes behind the barrel, some so close to the barrel they could not have come from the Israeli position, all with direct entry trajectories rather than the 30 degree angle they would have had coming from the Israelis, and not nearly enough to corroborate Talal’s claim that the Israelis were firing “bullets like rain” for over 40 minutes, and concludes:
[T]he 12-year-old boy and his father were deliberately targeted by Israeli soldiers.
Exhibit B: Robert Fisk, who didn’t even need to show up to conclude:
When I read the word “crossfire”, I reach for my pen. In the Middle East, it almost always means that the Israelis have killed an innocent person.
While I don’t think that the entire field of Middle-East journalism was committed to the kind of lethal journalism here illustrated, I think that after the al Durah story broke, the rest of the field either got in line, or, perhaps more depressingly, did not dare to say a word.
Rumors have it that Talal sent his footage to Mike Hannah at CNN (not sure of the timing here, since he was allegedly – I trust Enderlin on nothing in this story - on the phone to Enderlin during the day), and Hannah told him he wouldn’t run it. This story makes a great deal of sense: Hannah wouldn’t turn down a story as explosive as this unless he had strong suspicions it was faked (as was most footage of clashes between Israelis and Palestinians at that time: it’s one thing to run fake footage of minor injuries, another to run the on-camera death of a child). He, like I think anyone not under the spell of the desire to see a dead child would, looked at the footage and thought: “There’s no way I can run this footage. Way too many holes in this story, critics will tear it to pieces.”
Enderlin’s “genius” was to realize that if he packaged this right, gave everyone in the JCS building a copy of the footage, and warned everyone they were about to see something terrible, he could create a stampede in which, eventually, even CNN would run the story. And he was right. Shades of Charlie Sheen creating a run on Wall Street.
Maybe I’m missing something here, but I think the widespread belief that Muhammad al Durah died on camera is obviously false, and the fact that the Enderlin cut it from his news report, is virtually an open and shut case against the “boy died on camera” claim.
“Take 6″ in which the boy, rather than clutch his stomach wound, holds his hand over his eye, slowly lifts up his elbow, looks out and slowly lowers his elbow, lifting up his feet in counter-weight. Enderlin explained that he cut the footage because, as the boy’s death throes, it was too painful for the audience to see. The “audience” can judge whether this looks like the spasmodic death throes of a child, or deliberate and controlled actions.
When asked by Esther Schapira why he called the boy dead while showing earlier footage when he’s clearly not dead, Enderlin responded:
“I’m very sorry but the fact is the boy died. Maybe not at the precise moment I showed. But this is how I do a story. ‘The boy is dead’ is a statement. What’s your problem with that?”
And the fact that every news station that got the footage from Endlerlin did not find this final scene suspicious and use it to question Enderlin’s account, means that, far from a serious independent work, the Middle Eastern desks lined up behind their colleague, even though the damage caused by this footage was immediately evident. As Pierre Taguieff noted about the kind of anti-Zionism that emerged in the wake of al Durah and the Intifada he inspired: “When all the fishes swim in the same direction, it’s because they’re dead.”
All of this brings us back to the discussion of the process of auto-stupefaction I’ve referred to as rekaB Street. Rather than note the clues and the anomalies and pursue them fearlessly, most prefer not even to view the evidence, to dismiss it as a conspiracy theory, or, in some cases, to take a couple of fearless steps and then demur from reaching any further conclusions. Heaven forbid we call Talal a liar and Enderlin a(n apparently willing) dupe! Better we remain stupid.
On the contrary, I think that anyone who approaches the evidence not from the point of view in which “‘the boy is dead,’ and only 110% proof to the contrary will get me to change my mind,” but rather, “what’s going on in this tape? what are the odds it’s about a boy being killed by fire coming from the Israeli position, and what are the odds that it’s been staged?” will find the odds overwhelmingly favor staged (conservative estimate: 95-5?). If we thought about crimes the way most now think about this footage, we could close down our detective agencies and police departments.
A month ago, the NYT published a piece by another “as-a-Jew” singling out Israel for special (negative) treatment. It’s been addressed by at least four other commentators: Avi Bell at The Times of Israel, Elder of Ziyon at his blog, Jonathan Tobin at Commentary, and Vic Rosenthal at FresnoZionism. The outsider will consider this list a roundup of “right-wing” Israel-firsters, which is too bad because they’re responding to an Israel-laster, eager to curry favor with genuinely right-wing regressives, masquerading as a good progressive willing to be self-critical and to sacrifice his “own” interests (a “Jewish” state) for the sake of world peace.
On Questioning the Jewish State Joseph Levine, NYT Opinionator Blog, March 9. 2013 I was raised in a religious Jewish environment, and though we were not strongly Zionist, I always took it to be self-evident that “Israel has a right to exist.”
Now anyone who has debated the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will have encountered this phrase often. Defenders of Israeli policies routinely accuse Israel’s critics of denying her right to exist, while the critics (outside of a small group on the left, where I now find myself) bend over backward to insist that, despite their criticisms, of course they affirm it.
Note the rhetorical sleight of hand – “defenders of Israel’s policies” – which puts anyone who objects to attacks on Israel that question her right to exist as supporters of the government’s policies, rather than her right to exist. It confounds two distinct (but related) issues, one existential, one policy-oriented. Since Levine is about to argue that Israel doesn’t have a right to exist, the effort to isolate those who do as supporters of “right-wing” Israeli politicians like Netanyahu makes sense tactically. Readers who want to understand the issues, however, should beware.
The general mainstream consensus seems to be that to deny Israel’s right to exist is a clear indication of anti-Semitism (a charge Jews like myself are not immune to), and therefore not an option for people of conscience.
Well, there is an argument here for this case: given that both Christianity and Islam, from the very earliest years of their creation (almost 2000 years for Christians, over 1400 for Islam), have harbored, fostered, and occasionally incited violent hatred of Jews, have, indeed, asserted their identity on the invidious principle that the humiliation of the Jews was proof of their superiority, that with the advent of modernity, the anti-Jewish animus mutatated into even more monstrous genocidal forms, and that the last time those genocidal hatreds exploded on the European continent as an ecumenical movement that involved far more than Nazis, and that the liberal democracies that should have protected them and offered Jews fleeing the murderous wave of hatred did not, only the most sadistic observer would argue that the Jews did not deserve a state of their own where they did not have to depend on the good will of others to protect themselves. Hence, in the sobering wake of the Holocaust, the argument that denying the Jews a state of their own reveals a deep-seated animus against them held a great deal of weight.
There is now an argument (which Levine will tacitly appeal to) that things are different, and Jews (like him) can count on the benevolence of 21st century democracies (like the US and Europe), and that only a paranoid vision born of the Holocaust keeps Jews fearful of their gentile neighbors. I’d argue that, given that European nations are openly or tacitly telling Jews to leave because they cannot or will not protect them from the violent hatred of the Muslims in their midst, that Israel has become once again, in the 21st century [!], a refuge for Jews fleeing anti-Semitism, such an argument constitutes either a ludicrously naïve notion of the strength of liberal/progressive commitments, or another round of moral sadism.
For many of us who understand how political cultures driven by honor-shame imperatives operate, the Sisyphean tendency of well-intentioned “peace makers” to “restart” the Oslo Process after its explosion into the Oslo Intifada in 2000, serves as a apt illustration of the (mis-)attributed quote of “Einstein’s” - the definition of insanity is trying the same thing and expecting a different result. (So un-Einsteinian: you can never try “the same thing.”)
So when someone like John Kerry takes over at State and goes on a tour of the area looking for how he can jump-start the peace process based on the principles of the Politically-correct paradigm in which we are all positive-sum players and if only we sweeten the pot for the Palestinians, they’ll join in, many of us roll our eyes and know he’s doomed to failure.
What few people consider is what Rubin analyzes here: not only is Kerry’s approach not going to work, if it did, it would make things worse. Not just, one step forward, two backward, but, as in 2000, blowback in our face. Consider Rubin’s analysis.
Secretary of State John Kerry has what-should-be-discredited cliché about the Middle East firmly ensconced in his head. Of course, he is not alone. I just briefed a European diplomat who came up with the exact formulation I’m going to deal with in a moment. What is disconcerting—though long familiar—is that Western policymakers hold so many ideas that are totally out of touch with reality.
They do not allow these assumptions to be questioned. On the contrary, it is astonishing to find how often individuals in elite positions have never heard counter-arguments to these beliefs. It is easy to prove that many of these ideas simply don’t make sense, but it is nearly impossible to get elite intellectuals, officials, and politicians to open their minds to these explanations.
This is a fascinating point. The PCP has literally eclipsed all other approaches in the minds of the Western elites. It becomes unthinkable to view the situation otherwise.
Yet we can’t just believe what we want to believe, what we’d like to see happen, what we hope for. Reality must be faced or things will be worse. Having uunexamined utopian ideas dominate this topic does not serve anyone’s interests.
Well, it does serve the interests of the demopaths, who keep pushing all our liberal buttons as a way to have things go worse. But we fine Westerners don’t even want to admit that there are enemies, much less ones that use our values to destroy us.
“I am intensely focused on this issue and the region because it is vital really to American interests and regional interests to try and advance the peace process and because this festering absence of peace is used by groups everywhere to recruit and encourage extremism.”
Supposedly, then, the reason that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is so important and urgent to solve is that otherwise it is a powerful force in encouraging extremism. Of course, steps toward easing Israel-Palestinian tensions and stabilizing the situation are good but have no positive effect on the region.
Let’s stipulate that it would be a very good thing if this conflict would be resolved in a stable and compromise way. Let’s further stipulate that this isn’t going to happen.
But there is another point which sounds counter-intuitive and yet makes perfect sense:
Resolving the conflict in some way will encourage even more extremism and regional instability. How can I say that? Very simple.
Islamist groups and governments, along with radical Arab nationalists, Iran, and others, are determined to prevent any resolution of the issue. Anything other than Israel’s extinction they hold to be treason. If—and this isn’t going to happen—Israel and the Palestinian Authority made a comprehensive peace treaty those forces would double and triple their efforts to subvert it.
The folly of “linkage” is precisely the misunderstanding of what drives the conflict. If, as Obama and his advisors wanted to do at the beginning of his first administration, we “solve” the Arab-Israeli conflict, then, with the Arabs happy, we go after Iran. The only problem is that even if some (how many?) Arab leaders might be “happy” with a resolution that still left an Israeli state present and autonomous in the heart of Dar al Islam, far more would find that utterly unacceptable. Not only is linkage a Rube Goldberg machine, but it’s one that strewn with landmines just waiting to explode.
The government of Palestine would face determined domestic opposition, including assassination attempts on the “traitors” who made peace. Palestinian factions would claim to be more militant than their rivals and would seek to use the new state as a basis for attacking Israel in order to prove their credentials and advance their political fortunes.
What would the government of Palestine do once cross-border attacks inevitably began against Israel? It is highly likely it would disclaim responsibility and say they cannot find those responsible or even proclaim that these people are heroes.
Of course, the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip would not accept the deal, thus ensuring that it could not be implemented. That last factor, which is a huge and impassable barrier is simply ignored by the “peacemakers.” Israel would have to make major territorial concessions and take heightened risks in advance that would bring zero benefits from a Hamas government that would increase its attacks on Israel. Hamas forces on the West Bank, perhaps in partnership with Fatah radicals, would seek to overthrow Palestine’s government.
There would be attempts to carry out atrocities against Israeli civilians to break the deal, just as happened by Hamas alone during the 1993-2000 “Oslo peace process” period. Hizballah from Lebanon would also increase attacks on Israel to prove that the treasonous peace could not hold.
The ruling Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Syria would do everything possible to help Hamas. There would be outrage in large sectors of public opinion and especially among the armed Islamist militias who would try to lever their countries into war, stage cross-border attacks against Israel, and back Palestinian insurgents.
Of course, the fact that they understand all of the points made above is one of the main reasons why the Palestinian Authority’s leadership isn’t interested in making a peace deal with Israel, and not even negotiating seriously toward that end.
Ironically, then, the recruiting and encouragement of extremism would be at far higher levels than it is now.
Which is why, ironically, like Penelope, Odysseus’ wife, we need to continue weaving a peace process that must not come to fruition.
But that’s not all. Who would be identified as the architects of this terrible setback for Islam and Arab nationalism? The United States and the West, of course. Imagine the increase of anti-American terrorism for having permanently “stolen” Palestine, perpetuated “injustice,” and so powerfully entrenching the “Zionist entity.”
Kerry, no doubt, thinks that the Egyptians, Syrians, Lebanese, and Iranians would applaud the wonderful U.S. achievement. This is sheerest nonsense, especially at a time when Islamists feel they are riding the crest of a tidal wave of victory.
Is Kerry that foolish? I’d like to think not, but I’m forever astonished at how foolish smart people can be in our day and age.
While the parallels are inexact, some aspects of such a situation remind me of what happened at the end of World War One. Many people in Germany were convinced that their country was not defeated but merely suffered a “stab in the back” by its foreign enemies and the Jews at home. Out of this soil arose the Nazi movement, to avenge this betrayal and defeat. You can make of that parallel what you will.
Remember, too, that the 1990s “peace process” effort came at a time when Arab regimes were weak, repeatedly defeated by Israel, having lost their Soviet superpower ally, been riven by the Iran-Iraq and Kuwait wars, and with a bankrupt PLO. Now we are in a new era when, for example, the most important single Arab pillar for peace—the Husni Mubarak regime in Egypt—has been driven out to the cheers of those Westerners who also claim to recognize the value of an Arab-Israel peace.
Whether or not I’ve convinced you, I assume that you must understand that a serious case can be made for the argument stated above. Yet none of these points will appear in the mass media or the high-level debate. The assumption is, as Kerry stated, that Israel-Palestinian peace will make things better and no idea will be considered that contradicts this notion.
Let me again emphasize that I am not making an “anti-peace” argument here. If it was possible to secure a lasting, stable compromise peace between Israel and the Palestinians, that would be a great achievement. That might be possible some day but, dangerous wishful thinking aside, that isn’t true now.
And wishing it so makes it worse. Until we look at the cultural issues involved in making peace, and begin to prepare the Palestinians/Arabs/Muslims a generation or two down the pike to shift gears, none of our liberal fantasies will do any good.
I have an ongoing debate with James Fallows about the Al Durah Affair (here, here, and here). Indeed, he and Gabriel Weimann (mentioned below) are the first people to whom I showed Pallywood.His unwillingness to pursue the Al Durah affair are obviously a great disappointment to me. He just posted a “Ten-years-after” thought on the matter in which he refuses to get dragged back in. I respond below.
I’ve been running a series of “Ten Years After” items on the political, financial, strategic, and moral ramifications of the American invasion of Iraq, which was in its early stages in April, 2003.
As for me ten years ago, when the war began I was in Israel rather than Iraq. I was there to do interviews for a story that ran in our June, 2003, issue about the controversial and inflammatory Mohammed al-Dura case. He was the 12-year-old Palestinian boy who, according to widespread international news coverage, had been shot to death in 2000 by Israeli Defense Force soldiers, even as he huddled in terror behind the father who was trying to protect him. The picture of the doomed boy and his frantic father became a notorious symbol of Israeli cruelty; the image above is from a Tunisian postage stamp issued in commemoration of the killing.
My story ten years ago said that exactly what happened to Mohammed al-Dura might never be known — but that the prevailing story, that IDF soldiers had shot him to death, was very likely not true, since it was so hard to square with known forensic and physical evidence. The details are too elaborate to go through now, but you can follow them in the original article.
The controversy over the case has continued to rage, but I’ll let you explore it on your own. If you search for the names Charles Enderlin, Philippe Karsenty, or Richard Landes, you’ll be on your way; I’m not getting back into this.
And thereby perpetuate the problem. I remember the first time I showed this to a class, one of the students said, “You’ve convinced me that this is a fake. But I’m reluctant to agree because I don’t want to be seen as ‘taking sides.’” Is that why you take this position?
I obviously find it regrettable you choose not to pronounce on one of the greatest journalistic hoaxes in history, and I think, retrospectively you’ll also regret this decision (on the wrong side of history and all that…). In the meantime, I think you owe yourself (and your readership) a moment of journalistic self-criticism, and ask yourself to what degree your reluctance to even identify malfeasance here is that your colleagues – not just Enderlin – are responsible for many of the problems here.
My 2003 article has come to occupy an awkward “false equivalence” middle ground in the dispute. Many people who believe the original story say that I’ve been duped by Israeli propaganda to exonerate the IDF. Many people who challenge the original story scoff at me for resisting their claim that the entire episode was faked for “Pallywood” propaganda purposes and that the boy was never shot.
That would be me at the end there.
The reader might be excused for reading about the “many people who believe the original story and say I’ve been duped by Israeli propaganda” and thinking “militant Palestinian advocates, BDS types, Islamists…”, but – correct me if I’m wrong here James – many of those “many” are your fellow journalists.
Often, as I’ve argued in the false-equivalence chronicles, taking the middle ground is a way to evade the hard work of finding the real truth. In this case, my agnosticism comes from the murkiness of the evidence and the asymmetrical burdens of proof and disproof. It is much easier to establish that one hypothesis is false — for instance, that IDF soldiers were in the wrong place to do the reported shooting — than to prove that some other one is true. Similarly: I find it hard to believe that Lee Harvey Oswald acted entirely on his own in killing John F. Kennedy, but I have no idea what the “real” story is.
These are all good points, but would benefit from analysis. Let’s take them point by point.
Often, as I’ve argued in the false-equivalence chronicles, taking the middle ground is a way to evade the hard work of finding the real truth.
Glad that’s a principle. I do think that short of calling the whole thing staged, there are fairly powerful and meaningful things you can say, and I urge you to do so.
In this case, my agnosticism comes from the murkiness of the evidence and the asymmetrical burdens of proof and disproof.
I think the only thing murky about the evidence comes from Talal’s awfully unfocused and remarkably short footage. (And to think he won awards for this work.) You can claim murkiness; I think the fact itself – lack of focus, six ten-second takes of an hour-long ordeal – is evidence.
As for asymmetrical burdens of proof, as I read that problem, the asymmetries operate strongly against the Israelis. Once viewers have been told that they are seeing a boy die before their very eyes, it becomes almost impossible for them to consider criticism. As Itamar Marcus said to me when I first spoke with him about this: “We need 110% proof before we can say anything.”
It is much easier to establish that one hypothesis is false — for instance, that IDF soldiers were in the wrong place to do the reported shooting — than to prove that some other one is true.
As you yourself know, the evidence is overwhelmingly against Talal’s and Charles’ narrative, that the Israeli soldiers shot him, much less that they did it, as Talal claimed under oath (and then silently retracted in a fax) “in cold blood.”
Where you refuse to go, is to pronounce on staging. Here too, anyone examining the evidence dispassionately, free of the riveting “boy is killed” narrative, should at least acknowledge that, if Muhammad were actually killed the way that the still “official version” holds – the boy is shot in the stomach, the boy is dead, the boy was evacuated forty minutes later - we would not expect what the video evidence in fact shows: no blood on the ground or wall, the boy moves slowly and deliberately in a final scene (after Enderlin has declared him dead), there is no footage from any of the numerous cameras present of either the scene or the evacuation, the boy in hospital with the gaping stomach wound is not Muhammad al Durah, etc., etc.).
Whether you want to come to the conclusion that this is staged or not, is your call, but mentioning that no other hypothesis has anywhere near the evidentiary support seems like an honest and decent thing to do.
Similarly: I find it hard to believe that Lee Harvey Oswald acted entirely on his own in killing John F. Kennedy, but I have no idea what the “real” story is.
This, of course, brings up the “conspiracy theory” trope which is used constantly to discredit those who say the footage was faked. The differences, however, are considerable. We have a dead body, a dead president in the former, we have dubious claims to a dead body, a martyr calling for suicide terror on the other. To say, I believe it was more than Oswald, but not sure who it was, is one thing. In this case, however, the minute you admit that the evidence suggests staging, then a) it’s a no brainer on who’s doing the staging – Talal and his colleagues, and b) who are the dupes – Enderlin and his colleagues… your colleagues. So I’m not sure it’s the evidence that has you so reluctant, and more likely the unwillingness to come out against your colleagues. I understand. The pressures to conform are powerful.
I mention all this because there is an interesting new update in the Times of Israel on one of the people I spent time with ten years ago in Tel Aviv. He is Nahum Shahaf, and you will learn about him from the story. For the record, this new account refers to my own article in positive rather than the now-familiar derogatory terms, but I’m mentioning the story because Shahaf was one of the genuinely engrossing figures I have met along the way. (Another, whom I should regularly thank, was professor Gabriel Weimann of the University of Haifa, who helped me in many ways with this story — but bears no responsibility for what I concluded or didn’t.) \
The reader should note how fastidious Fallows is here not to drag Weimann into the affair. He too would rather not pronounce. Reportedly, Steven Erlanger recently saw Karsenty’s presentation in Paris and when asked what he thought, remarked, “I’m still not convinced.”
In what seems to be an interesting act of hesitation, the French court has delayed its decision on the Enderlin-Karsenty trial until May 22. For those arguing a politicized court which would naturally side with state-owned and politically-correct France2, this needs explanation. A kangaroo court does not hesitate. If it hesitates, it’s because the evidence is so “badly” in Karsenty’s favor that the judges hesitate to defy it. Whether for fear of contradiction, or some (significant but not decisive) remaining elements of intellectual integrity, this is good news.
The fact that they remain uncommitted, rather than deciding for Karsenty’s obvious right to criticize a journalist, however, means the weight of public honor (Charles’, France2′s, the Palestinians’) remains crucial to their calculations.
More to follow.
UPDATE: French article in Novel Observateur on the Court delay.
Note the endless reprinting of the most convincing photo of the father and son, terrified under fire. The picture they should show is this:
Final scene, cut by Enderlin, in which the boy, holding his hand inexplicably over his eyes rather than clutching his stomach, lifts up his elbow and looks out.
A l’origine de cette affaire un reportage saisissant tourné le 30 septembre 2000 dans la bande de Gaza.
Repeating that the report was “saissisant” (riveting) reaffirms the initial narrative.
Philippe Karsenty, poursuivi en diffamation par le journaliste de France 2 Charles Enderlin pour avoir affirmé qu’un reportage sur la mort d’un enfant palestinien en 2000 à Gaza avait été truqué, sera fixé sur son sort le 22 mai. La cour d’appel de Paris devait initialement rendre sa décision mercredi, mais l’a finalement prorogée.
En 2004, Philippe Karsenty, directeur de Media Ratings, qui se présente comme une agence de notation des médias, avait qualifié de “supercherie” et de “série de scènes jouées” un reportage du correspondant permanent de France 2 en Israël, tourné dans la bande de Gaza le 30 septembre 2000 par son caméraman. Un Palestinien de 12 ans, Mohammed, protégé par son père, Jamal al-Doura, y était tué lors d’un échange de tirs entre l’armée israélienne et des activistes palestiniens.
No use of “alleged.” Thus the Nouvel Obs continues to side with Enderlin in reporting that the boy was killed.
Les images de l’enfant avaient été largement diffusées dans le monde et avaient donné lieu à une controverse sur l’origine des tirs ayant provoqué sa mort.
No mention of the round of hatred and calls to violence the image provoked around the world.
Condamné en première instance, Philippe Karsenty avait bénéficié d’une relaxe en appel. La décision avait été annulée par la Cour de cassation.
No mention of the harsh criticism of the court of the way Enderlin did his reporting. “Avait beneficié d’une relaxe” (benefited from an acquittal) suggests not that either got lucky or got a favor.
Lors du nouveau procès le 16 janvier devant la cour d’appel, Charles Enderlin avait affirmé que l’authenticité des images de faisait “absolument aucun doute”, tandis que M. Karsenty avait soutenu qu’il s’agissait d’une “mise en scène”.
No assessment of the arguments, or even a link to where to observe the evidence. Any “normal” reader, convinced that Enderlin and France2 would never be so incompetent as to have been fooled and so perverse as to not admit it, would find this account perfectly in consonance with their beliefs. This was written for a readership not interested in the actual evidence.
TéléObs avec Afp
AFP (Agence France Presse) is a major player in the scandal.
A court of appeal in Paris will hand down an important judgment today that serves as a kind of microcosm of how the media establishment can act in a co-ordinated way to protect its members’ perceived interests. It also, by the way, throws a sharp light on the way Israel’s interests are under attack far from the physical battlefield – while the casualties are all too real.
The decision will be the latest episode in a legal saga pitting the state-controlled France2 television juggernaut along with one of its senior news producers, Charles Enderlin, on one side against a lone-wolf French media critic, Philippe Karsenty. Enderlin and France2 are seeking to have Karsenty convicted of criminal defamation.
The matter has gone through four separate rounds of legal hearings since the well-funded plaintiffs launched their attack in September 2006 – testament to the determination of both sides, and perhaps to the larger issues at stake. (See the timeline on the Aldurah.com website.)
Enderlin is a prominent French foreign correspondent based, and living, in Israel. A well-regarded veteran professional, he is the current head of the Foreign Press Association here and no innocent bystander when it comes to the powerful controversies that continually sweep over the media’s coverage of events in the Arab/Israel conflict.
The Enderlin/France2 legal action starts with an event that still reverberates mightily today. On September 30, 2000, at the start of the second ‘Intifada’, France2 broadcast footage of an episode that happened at Netzarim Junction in Gaza that day. It was captured on film by a Palestinian ‘stringer’ called Talal Abu Rahma who – perhaps oddly – was the only one out of the numerous cameramen filming at Netzarim that day to record the incident, which he claims occurred over the course of nearly an hour. Enderlin, France 2′s local correspondent, was not present and in fact was in another part of the country at the time.
France2 put the Abu Rahma footage to air the same days, accompanied by dramatic commentary supplied by Enderlin, and handed the clip to numerous other news agencies. It purported to show a scene both pathetic and horrifying: a father and his pre-teenage young son cowering behind a barrel as bullets are fired at them by (as the Enderlin commentary makes clear) IDF soldiers in a nearby emplacement. Eventually, the narrative became more concrete and accusatory: the Israeli soldiers had murdered the boy, Mohammed “in cold blood,” firing “hundreds of bullets”. Mohammed bled to death of a stomach wound.
Twelve and a half years have passed since the events depicted in the Al Durah video. That’s certainly a long time in terms of a news cycle. But along the way it morphed into something iconic and enduring, with devastating effect in terms of lives lost and ruined. It is at least as alive and potent today as it was in 2000.
People who view the video are usually convinced they are witnessing the horrible and cold-blooded killing of a child. That is what the voice-over tells them. Since it first appeared as a news report, the image of a dead boy beside his father has escalated into a plethora of posters, murals, online music videos and even postage stamps.
The problem, as Karsenty and others have repeatedly and publicly pointed out, is that the child is visibly alive at the end of the full clip, long after the audio track pronounces him shot dead. The frames capturing that startling final scene were ignored in some broadcasts, edited out of others, and are at the heart of the dispute. They can be seen here.)
Whatever actually happened that day, the Al Durah footage continues to be invoked over and again as justification for violent deeds and acts of terrorism.
The organizers of the notorious 2000 anti-racism conference in Durban exploited the Al Durah footage to market Israel as the villain of the new, global century.
The grotesque 2002 video released by Pakistani jihadists that shows American journalist Daniel Pearl being beheaded depicts the face of Mohammad Al Durah in a corner of the screen.
The Al Durah narrative played a key role in Osama Bin Laden’s video sermons. It became an icon of hatred that fanned the winds of global religious and cultural hatred and warfare.
Jihadi groups have used the imagery to reach students at Western universities.
The French jihadist Mohamed Merah ascribed his killing spree in Montauban and Toulouse in March 2012 to a will to avenge the Palestinian boy’s death.
The 2012 Toulouse tragedy highlighted, perhaps more graphically than the other instances, how a society exposed to hate-mongering narratives of children deliberately killed by a hated ‘other’ (and perhaps it’s just coincidence that this happened in France again), will produce men like Merah who kill Jewish school-children to avenge these journalistic accounts. Beyond this, it will nourish deep resentments that engender support and admiration for the “avenger”, lionizing him as a martyr for the act of child-killing and for the blows he strikes against authority.
The matter of the Al Durah event – and in this sense it matters less whether it was accurately reported or wasa ‘Pallywood’ hoax – is at the heart of a serious debate about news reporting. Consider three points, from among numerous others:
Among the most disturbing of the many failures highlighted by the Al Durah affair has been the remarkable lack of evident desire among investigative journalists to critically examine the Charles Enderlin/France 2 version of the evidence. And in a striking inversion of the role journalists should be taking, France’s union of media professionals, the Syndicat national des journalistes, stands explicitly behind Enderlin, the video clip’s producer. It has actively supported France 2’s sustained attack on Karsenty and his pesky questions for eight years.
In some quarters, France 2′s defamation suit is perceived as a means to legally strait-jacket those who allege the video and the narrative it represents are a fraud.
Journalism that promotes toxicnarratives by presenting them as news, feeds hatred and incites to violence has arguably become central to the harshening of European public culture in the 21st century. Jews are only the first victims of a metastasizing process that is coming to be recognized as cognitive warfare.
Notwithstanding the small degree of attention paid outside France to this criminal defamation case, there are serious and large issues here. Beyond the immediate facts of the events at Netzarim and in Paris, they concern the immensely important role played by those who report and analyze the news, and the mutual responsibility existing between them and the societies they serve. What is the appropriate response if it turns out that deadly consequences result from malfeasance on the part of those who package and market the news?
Perhaps the decision of the Paris court on Wednesday may help to bring the questions into a sharper focus. They are likely to accompany us for some time.
Arnold Roth made Aliya from Melbourne in 1988. In 2001, his 15-yr-old daughter died as a result of the suicide bombing of Jerusalem’s Sbarro Restaurant.
Elihu D Stone practiced law in Boston, Massachusetts and is currently a member of the Israeli Bar; He is involved in the Al Durah Project, an initiative dedicated to understanding and countering the dilemmas and vulnerabilities that face democratic cultures in this age of aggressive asymmetric and cognitive warfare… [More]
This Wednesday, April 3rd, The French Supreme Court will render its decision in a case pitting the state-owned France 2 News Agency and one of its senior news producers, Charles Enderlin against media critic Philippe Karsenty, a citizen media critic, whom they seek to convict of criminal defamation. The legal action, winding its way through the French legal system for eight years, involves an event that occurred 12 years ago but still reverberates mightily today.
On September 30, 2000, at the start of the second Intifada, France 2 broadcast approximately one minute’s edited footage of an episode filmed by its Palestinian stringer Talal Abu Rahma at Netzarim Junction in Gaza. Abu Rahma was the only one of the scores of cameramen filming at Netzarim that day to record the incident, which he claims occurred over the space of a full hour. Charles Enderlin, France 2′s Jerusalem correspondent – who did not witness the scene – broadcast the footage informing his viewers that 12-year-old Mohammed al-Dura and his father, Jamal were “the target of fire from the Israeli position” as they took cover behind a barrel near a wall at the Junction. In later interviews, Abu Rahma accused the Israeli soldiers of murdering Mohammed “in cold blood,” firing “hundreds of bullets” while the boy bled to death of a stomach wound.
The “lethal narrative” that Israeli troops wantonly killed Mohammed became a clarion call for Jihadists and other foes attacking Israel, Jews and Western democracies. Bin Laden featured images of al-Dura prominently in his recruiting videos; Pakistani jihadis beheaded Daniel Pearl on camera invoking the image of Mohammed al-Dura.
From the moment of broadcast, the scene raised troubling questions for Enderlin’s account, and many more surfaced during the years that followed: Why, although Abu Rahma and Enderlin alleged the Israelis hit Mohammed and his father a dozen times with bullets that tore through their bodies, does no blood whatsoever appear on the wall, the barrel, or the ground near the alleged victims? Why do the people around Abu Rahma shout the “the child is dead! The child is dead!” before he even shows signs of being hit. Why, two “takes” after Enderlin has declared him dead does the boy peek out from under his arm at the camera, showing no sign of a stomach injury? And why did Enderlin cut that final scene from his broadcast? Why did news photographers find red ‘blood’ the day after the incident on the ground near the barrel, under the father’s position, but not where the son allegedly bled to death of a stomach wound? Why did 45 minutes of continuous, targeted fire leave no more than 11 bullet holes in the wall by the al-Duras? Why – despite Abu Rahma’s varying claims to have collected or filmed bullets at the scene and Jamal’s alleged surgeries in Gaza and Jordan to have bullets removed – has not a single bullet or fragment ever been produced, in response to Israel’s repeated requests for such evidence?
The Al-Dura incident and the questions surrounding it raise matters extending far beyond the events of that day and the geographic boundaries of the Middle East. At issue are the bedrock rights and responsibilities of the media as it reports on events, especially in cases where it assigns motive and blame.
Too often, in the court of public opinion, the press simultaneously holds itself as judge and jury and advocate. The rules of evidence prevailing in the court of public opinion are far less defined than those in a court of law. Precisely for that reason, the press has a heightened responsibility to police itself, when determining what images and messages it injects into the public sphere it is meant to accurately inform.
It has been said that truth matters less than perception and belief in shaping world events. But that merely increases the journalists’ responsibility – if they can shape perceptions so powerfully, they must proceed scrupulously. Democracies give their press freedom to speak truth to power. Abusing this freedom to recycle false accusations designed to stoke war betrays the very profession itself.
Yet, on more than one occasion, members of the media have defended their choice of images purveyed, chosen precisely due to their emotional, rather than their probative, content. Patrick B. Pexton, Ombudsman of the Washington Post, in an opinion piece published November 23, 2012 entitled “Photo of dead baby in Gaza holds part of the ‘truth’ ” recalled MaryAnne Golon, the Post’s director of photography, explaining to him that the purpose of any front-page photo, regardless of subject, is to move the reader, whether through its beauty, sentiment or drama.” Apparently, the fact that the journalist mistakenly blamed Israel for the child’s death did not impede the search for emotional impact.
In the case of al Dura, France 2 failed to investigate basic questions of fact and causation before, during and after its passing on of poisonous images and allegations to the public relying on France 2 – and still remains in exclusive possession of materials crucial to properly answer those questions. Perhaps France 2 rushed because it did not want to be scooped by others filming the scene, but that hardly excuses its subsequent failure to investigate properly.
The utter refusal by France 2′s journalists and editors to examine evidence that contradicted their basic assumptions remains deeply disturbing. Enderlin not only conflated absence of proof with proof of absence, but justified willful blindness to certain facts as grounds to dismiss their very possibility. Even more disturbing, France 2 doubled down when confronted with its error, trying to legally straitjacket Karsenty for having the temerity to call out the al-Dura hoax for what it is. If the French court, for either political or technical reasons, sides with state-owned France 2 against a bold and correct critic, they strike a blow not only against press responsibility, but the very fabric of the civil society they ought to play such a key role in preserving. Such an abject failure on the part of both the media and the courts to correct this penchant for mainstreaming the enemy’s lethal narratives makes the world a much more dangerous place.
When I saw the cover story on the NYT Magazine yesterday, my stomach sank. It didn’t take more than a few moments to know what kind of a fluff piece for the Palestinians and hit-job against the Israelis it would be… part of a systematic campaign against Israel that the NYT is engaged in, documented by CAMERA, illustrated only recently by a cruel piece by Joseph Levine (soon to be fisked here), and again today with a piece by Jodi Rudoren predicated on the principle that the Palestinians should and must have a piece of Jerusalem for their own, and therefore anything the Jews do to jeopardize that outcome is hostile to peace.
Fortunately someone – a man I greatly admire for his work on these painful issues – Arnold Roth and his wife Frimet, took up the cudgels and critiqued yet another example of the sickness of self-loathing and the romanticization of hatred that so characterizes the NYT coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Please read it all.
If you want to affect how people think about an issue, putting your case onto the cover of the New York Times Magazine must be one of the most effective things you can do. And, given the intense competition, one of the hardest.
So if the editors of the NYT (108 Pulitzer Prizes, more than any other news organization; 30 million unique visitors per month to its website; the largest local metropolitan newspaper in the United States – according to Wikipedia) give you the cover of the prestigious Magazine, it’s a massive vote of confidence, a huge privilege, a platform of the most effective kind that (probably) can’t be bought for money.
Friends have pointed us to this week’s NYT Magazine cover story, published today. It’s devoted to a Palestinian Arab village set in the hills a few kilometers north of where we live in Jerusalem. It’s a place the author calls “spirited”, where “on warm summer evenings, life… could feel almost idyllic. Everyone knows everyone.” He says “a pilgrimage”to this magical place “has achieved a measure of cachet among young European activists, the way a stint with the Zapatistas did in Mexico in the 1990s”.
In usefully infidel “progressive” circles, it’s considered racist to call Palestinian leaders liars (part of the auto-stupefaction we impose upon ourselves). Of course, this isn’t about race, it’s about culture, and especially about an honor-shame culture where, if it’s legitimate, even required to shed blood for honor, how much the more is it okay to lie to save face.
Here’s an old and no longer easily available article by Bret Stephens from 2002 (when he worked at “Eye on the Media” at the JPost):
EYE ON THE MEDIA,
By BRET STEPHENS
Jerusalem Post, Dec. 26, 2002
“Every word she says is a lie, including ‘and,’ ‘but’ and ‘if’.” What Mary McCarthy said of Lillian Hellman, so one could say about Saeb Erekat. Among Palestinians, the 46-year-old Jericho boss and chief PA negotiator is the single most widely quoted person in the English-language press, with 11,382 citations since 1988. (By contrast, runner-up Hanan Ashrawi comes in at 8,062 for the same time period, and Sari Nusseibeh gets fewer than 2,000).
Erekat gets kid-glove treatment from ordinarily hard-fisted reporters: an admiring 1998 Wall Street Journal profile reads like a memo on why he should succeed Yasser Arafat. On TV, he remains the go-to man for all the major networks. That he was chief mouthpiece of the Jenin massacre myth, bandying about figures of 500 Palestinian deaths as though it were incontrovertible fact, hasn’t noticeably dimmed his credibility. Especially, it would seem, at The New York Times, where Erekat’s byline appeared last week under an op-ed called “Saving the Two-State Solution.”
The Human Rights Complex describes the masochistic tendency of Western “human rights” activists to blame themselves for everything and to let the “people of color” off the hook: if you want to know what will get the “human rights community” indignant, look not at the victim or how badly that victim suffers, but at the perp: white? outrage, of color? embarrassed silence.
It turns out there’s an inverse version of this: if you want to look at what will get the Arab world indignant, look not at the victim or how badly the victim suffers, but at the perp: white (a fortiori Jewish)? outrage, of color (a fortiori Arab) shameless silence.
This is like the cold war joke about the American and the Russian arguing about freedom of speech: “In America, I can stand on the White House lawn and call the president of the USA a fool, and not get arrested.” To which the Russian responds, “So can I.” And it describes to perfection the sick marriage of pre-modern sadism – you’re guilty of everything we wish we could do” – and post-modern masochism – “we’re so sorry, please forgive us.”
Take the Nakbah (catastrophe). To Palestinians today, it represents a real-world catastrophe – the terrible, Holocaust-level tragedy that befell their people in 1948 during the first Arab-Israeli war (for Israelis, the “War of Independence”), during which about 3000 Palestinians were killed and some half a million refugees fled. To others, it represents a psychological catastrophe the horrifying global humiliation of seven Arab armies defeated by a rag-tag army of the worst of the dhimmi — Jews, the weaklings and cowards of 1400 years of Muslim tradition.
Compare with the current catastrophe befalling Syria today: 70,000 killed (and counting), and over a million refugees (and over 4 million internally displaced). In real-world terms, this is a vastly greater catastrophe than the “Nakbah” of 1948. And yet, it barely registers in the minds of the pro-Palestinian camp, who still swarm over Western campuses yearly complaining of a “crime” committed over two generations ago. They’re like the Mel Brooks (2000-year-old man) joke about the difference between comedy and tragedy: “Tragedy is if I cut my finger. I’ll cry a lot, go into Mount Sinai for a day and a half. Comedy is if you fall in an open manhole and die. What do I care?”
When I suggested at an “Israel Apartheid” talk at BU that complaining about red-tape in East Jerusalem was a bit inappropriate given the real bloodshed next door, I got accused of “Assadwashing” in the pages of the Electronic Intifada.
That the Palestinian leadership is full of self-absorbed narcissists who refuse to be distracted from attacking the enemy that has shamed them in the eyes of the world, no matter how comparatively ludicrous the claims of real-world damage, is, perhaps, understandable. But that the supporters of the Palestinians would share that obsession, rather than help them grow up… that’s problematic, especially since their alleged supporters are supposedly “progressives,” rather than useful infidels.
Talk delivered Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 11:00 AM (Video will be posted at a later date)
Since the Fall of 2000, the Western mainstream news media have taken a peculiar turn towards what one might call “lethal journalism.” In particular, the MSNM have consistently served as a major conduit for “lethal narratives” about Israel, largely concocted by Palestinians and other Arabs seeking to destroy Israel, which they, with an astonishingly consistent credulity, report as news. This turn represents not a creation of “lethal journalism” which had already shown its strength during the 1982 Israeli operation in Lebanon, but with the outbreak of the Oslo Intifada, it came to dominate the news media in unprecedented fashion.
Let’s begin with “lethal narratives.” These are stories that are told with the intention of creating hatred and a desire for revenge. Some are based on real events in which Palestinians and other Arabs die (Sabra and Shatilla, Gaza Beach, Kafr Qana), some are invented out of whole cloth (Jenin poisonings, Muhammad al Durah, Mavi Marmara). All involve the exaggeration of the number killed, the attribution of their deaths to Israeli soldiers, and, most significantly, the accusation of deliberate murder. These narratives are weapons of war, designed to both incense, incite, and provoke Muslims the world over to hate the Israelis and seek revenge, to alienate from Israel the support of peace-loving progressives in the West, and to dishearten Zionists in defense of their cause.
Lethal narratives partake of a larger discourse of hatred that has characterized warfare for millennia. They have a peculiarly virulent place in the “war against the Jews” especially in the “Blood Libels” that plagued European culture from the 12th to the 20th century, and continue to circulate widely in the Muslim world to this day. Lethal narratives embody a reactionary “us-them” scape-goating mentality that views the “enemy” as evil. Few phenomena hurt the possibility of peace more than their circulation, and nothing could more violate the basic progressive discourse than this kind of bellicose story-telling, especially when they are concocted out of malice.
Somewhat ironically, then, modern (or post-modern) journalism, which openly pursues a progressive agenda – often in the form of universal human rights – has shown itself particularly susceptible to Palestinian lethal narratives. The lethal journalist’s rule of thumb in dealing with evidence from the “war of images” (which is really a war of narratives) between Israel and its neighbors, is
believe what Palestinians say until proven wrong,
dismiss what the Israelis say until proven right,
and when that eventually becomes the case (after much damage), move on to the next story.
There were already plenty of lethal journalists before 2000, but they were mostly marginalized – except in 1982 when there was blood in the water. After the outbreak of the Intifada, however, they rapidly come to dominate most aspects of journalism about the conflict, pushing out and intimidating other approaches to the subject with activist fervor. Indeed, once in charge, the lethal journalists could pressure new journalists who come to cover the Middle East to conform to their epistemological principles – the priority of the Palestinian over the Israeli narrative. Whether the fear of hostility from Palestinian sources who brook criticism badly, or of ostracism from the circle of UN-NGO-journalist-activists where they have to spend most of their time, reporters rapidly learn the rules of the game, as Ricardo Cristiano assured Yasser Arafat, when he protested this his crews would never have circulated pictures of the Palestinian lynching at Ramallah in October of 2000:
We emphasize to all of you that the events did not happen this way, because we always respect (will continue to respect) the journalistic procedures with the Palestinian Authority for (journalistic) work in Palestine and we are credible in our precise work.
We thank you for your trust, and you can be sure that this is not our way of acting. We do not (will not) do such a thing.
As a result, the press’ coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict, especially since 2000, fall prey to a double inconsistency: on the one hand an uncritical embrace of these lethal narratives against Israel, and a corresponding reluctance to report real news about murderous Palestinians, their incitement, their targeting of civilians, their genocidal discourse. This double inversion of telling lies about Israel and not telling the truth about the Palestinians (who produce these lies), ends up not contributing to peace, but to war, feeding not the peacemakers but the worst warmongers. Perhaps the single greatest beneficiary of this reign of lethal journalists, has been global Islamic imperialism (Jihad) whose cause benefits from both the incitement of its own troops and the dissemination of culture disorientation and paralysis among its Western democratic foes. Historians will look back at the turn of the millennium and date the appearance of a global Muslim street whose increasing aggression has yet to visibly wane.
Al Durah: the blood libel and the victory of lethal journalism
Let’s begin not with the origins of lethal journalism, but the most lethal of all the “narratives” – Muhammad al Durah – and its consequences. Al Durah constitutes the most extreme example of lethal journalism in every aspect:
it was staged – quite crudely,
journalists both bought it hook line and sinker,
it had a mythical impact on the global imagination – it is the icon of hatred that inaugurated the 21st century
it has done untold damage to everyone on the planet who seeks peace – Israeli, Palestinian, Western, Muslim
and journalists – still! – resist correcting themselves.
Here is the footage, shot on Rosh Hashannah, 5760/2000 by Palestinian cameraman for CNN, Talal abu Rahmah as presented by Charles Enderlin on France2.
This became an instant global hit. Everyone who had a television saw this event, along with the accompanying narrative – that Israeli army had deliberately, in cold blood, murdered the boy in his defenseless father’s arms. This was the affirmation – the whole world saw it – of all that the Palestinians had been accusing Israel of for time out of mind: they were the murderous, rapist, massacring, Nazis.
American newspapers were not exempt from the feeding frenzy:
The story opened the gates to a morally sadistic equation of Israel with the Nazis (the ultimate lethal frame) even as it gave voice to genocide against the Jews.
Place de la République, Paris, October 6, 2000.
Here we have the opening round of the Muslim Street in Europe: an enthusiastic accusation against Israel of being the real Nazis even as, for the first time since the Nazis a European capital – Paris no less – heard the cry of “death to the Jews.”
Al Durah became a substitution theology. As one reporter, speaking for many, put it: This picture erases, replaces that of the boy in the ghetto.
Israel was the new Nazis, Palestinians were the new Jews: what had, in the 20th century, been considered the most ludicrous and grotesque moral claim – Arabs who openly embraced Nazi genocidal ideology accusing Israel of being the Nazis and claiming to be the Jews object of Israeli genocide – went mainstream. Sharansky was among the first to identify the problem, the 3 Ds: Demonization, Delegitimation, Double – really Quadruple Standard.
Think, for a moment, of the moral disorientation necessary to accept, much less advocate such a claim: the image of a boy, caught in a crossfire the Palestinians started, replacing a symbol of the deliberate murder of a million children and six million civilians. You have to be morally deranged to find such a supersessionist equation compelling. Deranged by what? Hatred? Denied guilt? Resentment? Of what?
Certainly someone like Bin Laden immediately grasped the value of the al Durah imagery for the cause of Jihad.
This video was used extensively by radical Muslim groups recruiting on college campuses.
What are the consequences of the al Durah story
Activated global Jihad: Israel was the Dajjal (Antichrist) of the Muslim apocalyptic scenario whereby they would conquer the world.
Disabled any Arabs in the peace camp: any Palestinian still dialoguing with Israelis/Jews after this footage appeared became a traitor to the cause.
Mobilizing an global anti-Zionist discourse: the “global Left” enthusiastically embraced the discourse in which Israel was the major cause of the conflict, and her elimination was the “solution.”
Thus, al Durah presided over a Red-Green alliance that reached its first climax less than a year later at the Durban “anti-racism” conference in late August of 20001. There the virulent denunciation of Israel, led by Muslim countries but taken up by Western progressives in a series of conferences and resolutions condemning Zionism and laying out plans for a global campaign against her. Jamal al durah was flown in on Arafat’s private jet, told everyone how the Israelis had killed his boy in cold blood, and Muhammad, carried in effigy became the “patron saint” of Durban’s hate-fest.
As a result of the remorseless media campaign against Israel, she became one of the most despised countries in the world, right down there with Iran among the most warlike countries.
The paradox of Western Peace journalism turning into War journalism:
Peace journalism became a major factor in the Oslo Peace Process, enthusiastically embraced not only by Israeli journalists in the peace camp, but academics as well. Peace journalism argues that the news media can contribute to peace by encouraging people to trust the other side, and by not emphasizing sensationalist news that might discourage people from supporting negotiations (e.g., terrorist strikes). This makes sense, however, only when both sides engage in such a process. If one side systematically suppresses information that might lead the readers to abandon peace and prepare for war, while the other side demonizes the other side and prepares its people for war, then it has the opposite effect, since it disarms the side committed to peace and arms the other for war.
This is precisely what happened in the period of the Oslo “Peace Process”: the Israeli and Western “peace press” played down any information that might alert the Israelis or the world to Palestinian intentions, and ostracized as right-wing war-mongers anyone who tried to bring this information – MEMRI and PMW were born in this period. Thus while the Palestinians spoke of Oslo as a Trojan Horse, the press played the role of Poseidon’s serpents who killed Laacoon and his sons when they proved the horse contained warriors. And then, when the war that anyone well-informed could have foreseen broke out, the liberal media, both in Israel and in the West, rather than admitting their error of judgment, blamed Israel. And al Durah played a key role in that process.
The overall picture of the period of lethal journalism after al Durah gives us the spectacle of an Arab-Israeli Bullfight. Israel is the Toreador, the Arabs are the Bull, the journalists are the Picadors that enrage the bull, and the crowd is made up of PETA fans rooting for the Bull and hating the matador. And the supporters of the matador are embarrassed to shout their support.
How do we reverse the consequence: ways that people who support Israel (Zionists!) can talk with their neighbors, friends, and co-workers, without getting angry or shrill when they run into resistance.
Cognitive Warfare: sometimes lethal narratives backfire:
Deir Yassin in the short run led to the Arabs fleeing; in the long run it has been a major accusation of massacre against the Israeli (along with Sabra and Shatilla, and Muhammad al Durah) – all lethal narratives.
how can we get these lethal narratives to backfire?
focussing on the media’s vulnerability to “lethal narratives” about Israel.
staying away from the anti-semitism accusations and reformulating the problem (e.g., why is there such an appetite for lethal narratives about Israel?)
disabling certain memes that people unthinkingly accept:
war is not the answer
violence never solved anything
if i’m being criticized by both sides i must be doing something right,
it’s racist to say nasty things about Arabs,
I’m not saying anything Jews don’t say.
Newspapers may make mistakes, but they’re not biased, and certainly not on purpose.
Examining some unconscious patterns
Racism: no moral expectations towards the Arabs
Quadruple Standards: the West is held to a higher standard than the third world, the Israelis are held to a higher standard than the West, and the Palestinians to a lower standard than the third world.
“Progressive” support for the Palestinians reinforces the scapegoating discourse of the Arab elite who use it to exploit their own people.
As much as it’s aimed at supporting peace, this all actually foments war and prolongs the conflict.
PC: Using “Left vs. Right” to identify players (e.g., pro-Palestinian is left-wing; pro-Israeli is right-wing), has become worse than misleading and useless, it’s now destructive and a sign of our utter disorientation.
Why are Westerners, including Jews, so attracted to lethal narratives about Israel and so loathe to hear them about their real enemies?
getting people to reflect on their unconscious (or unexamined) projections of their own mentality onto others (liberal cognitive egocentrism).
7. With every year that passes, the contrast between this intensely democratic and highly organized modern community and the old-fashioned Arab world around it grows sharper, and in nothing, perhaps, more markedly than on its cultural side. The literary output of the National Home is out of all proportion to its size. Hebrew translations have been published of the works of Aristotle, Descartes, Leibnitz, Fichte, Kant, BergsoIl, Einstein and other philosophers, and of Shakespeare, Goethe, Heine, Byron, Dickens, the great Russian novehsts, and many modern writers. In creative literature the work of Bialik, who died in 19×5, has been the outstanding achievement in Hebrew poetry, and that of Nahum Sokolov, who died in 1936, in Hebrew prose. A number of Hebrew novels have been written reflecting the influence on the Jewish mind of life in the National Home. The Hebrew Press has expanded to four daily and ten weekly papers. Of the former the Ha’aretz and the Dauw, with circulations of about 17,000 and ~5,000 respectively, are the most influential and maintain a high literary standard. Two periodicals are exclusively concerne with literature and one with dramatic art. But perhaps the most striking aspect of the culture of the National Home is its love of music. It was while we were in Palestine, as it happened, that Signor Toscanini conducted the Palestine Symphony Orchestra, composed of some 70 Palestinian Jews, in six concerts mainly devoted to the works of Brahms and Beethoven. On each occasion every seat was occupied, and it is noteworthy that one concert was reserved for some 3,000 workpeople at very low rates and that another 3,000 ‘attended the Orchestra’s final rehearsal. All in all, the cultural achievement of this little community of 400,000 people is one of the most remarkable features of the National Homeland.
Recently George Galloway embarrassed – no, humiliated – the anti-Zionist forces by walking out of an Oxford debate with a (non) Israeli, because (he thought) he was Israeli. The audience, normally spoon-fed their anti-Zionism, booed Galloway’s exit and cheered the young man, Eylon Aslan-Levy.
Now Galloway has a comment on his Facebook page that… says it all (HT/A. Ostrovsky).
Me and the Palestinian cause: A number of questions have recently arisen I need to deal with. Firstly if people want to talk to the Palestinians they need to contact the Palestine Liberation Organisation. This is the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people and has been for many decades.
A bit out of date, but consistent.
Secondly, an organisation calling itself “BDS” does not own the words or the concept of boycott, divestment or sanctions. They are entitled to their own interpretation of these words but they don’t own or control me. I will make my own interpretation. And it is this – no purchase of Israeli goods or services, no normal contacts with individuals or organisations in Israel who support the existence of the racist Apartheid creed of Zionism. That’s what I mean by boycott. That’s what I do. Israelis who are outside of and against the system of Zionism are comrades of mine – like Prof Ilan Pappe. My opponent at Oxford University did not meet this test. The organiser of the event momentarily lionised by the liberal as well as the conservative establishment needs to know this, especially as he is a medical student. To compare Israeli Zionism to “Vegetarianism” is like a doctor not knowing the difference between a pimple and a tumor. Apartheid Israel is a cancer at the heart of the middle-east.
Because Israel is surrounded by liberal and tolerant democracies who assure everyone (including women and religious minorities) of full rights. Talk about a pimple on a pox-ravaged face.
Only it’s replacement by a bi-national democratic state from the Jordan River to the sea will cure this. That is what I am fighting for.
George Galloway MP
House of Commons
And just who in this neighborhood, other than the Zionists you won’t talk to is either committed to, or capable of, establishing and maintaining a democracy? The Syrians? The Egyptians? The hapless Lebanese? The endangered Jordanians? Oh, I know, the “democratic” Gazans.
It’s hard to imagine a more foolish political agenda. But the benefits – free rampaging racism and anti-Semitism in the form of Schadenfreude-indulging lethal narratives – are just too delicious to renounce.